Cholesterol reminders during eating season

By Breck Hapner

December 12, 2013

December is not the time that most people think about lowering their cholesterol. Many of the holiday favorites to eat are high in fat and calories. December is usually not the time to raise awareness about cholesterol.

December is the time for families to gather around to talk, play and visit. One of the things that would be very helpful to everyone in the family is to talk about the family’s health history.

An elevated cholesterol value is one of those numbers that run in the family. I like to joke with my clients and tell them that they picked the wrong parents when they learn their cardiac lab numbers. Forgive my poor medical jokes.

Just as high cheekbones and a talent for music or art run in the family, things like poor eyesight and high cholesterol are also are inherited traits. As I mentioned before, parents play a big part in who and what you are.

Your body does need a little cholesterol in order to make new cell membranes and the processing of food. However, your body makes all of the cholesterol it needs and in some cases, more than what is needed. The cholesterol that you eat from the fat in animal products is all extra.

There are things that can be done to assure that the inherited cholesterol numbers do not get out of hand. Your lifestyle and your health reflect each other. If you are overweight and do not exercise on a regular basis, then your risk of the high cholesterol that is hazardous to your health goes up and the low healthy cholesterol value will go down. Smoking makes these numbers even worse.

The first step in gaining control over an elevated weight is to stop gaining. You can’t start losing weight until you stop gaining it. Basic changes in what is consumed daily mean a lot. Replacing one unhealthy snack like chips or cookies with fruits or vegetables can make a big difference. Try to do this daily until it becomes a natural habit.

Increase fiber, specifically soluble fiber found in things such as, apples, oats and barley. Soluble fiber when consumed regularly acts like a cholesterol vacuum cleaner. A psyllium anti-constipation product taken daily has also proven to be very effective with lowering cholesterol.

Eating nuts, specifically walnuts and almonds, have been very successful when consumed daily. A small handful is all that is needed to make a difference in cholesterol values.

Exercise and moving actively on a daily basis has a unique effect on cholesterol levels in the blood. Gym membership is not required. Working up a sweat and increasing the heart rate is vital to lowering cholesterol levels.

Merry Christmas and choose health this holiday season.

Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator and a registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a diabetes self-management training program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital, Orrville. Contact her at or 330-684-4776.